Astellas, YASKAWA Sign Cell Therapy MoU Powered by Robotics Technology

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The agreement is expected to focus on cell manufacturing processes, with potential for sharing tech with academia, startups.

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/Funtap.com

Image Credit: Adobe Stock Images/Funtap.com

Astellas Pharma has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with YASKAWA Electric Corporation, signifying early talks to design a cell therapy ecosystem with the use of pharmaceutical and robotics technology.1 Although this particular memorandum is legally non-binding and technically not required to be followed, both parties expect that it will result in more discussions on the matter between the two companies down the road.

Commercializing cell therapy often comes with it challenges, including product manufacturing complexities. Given the financial commitment of such products, large investments are usually needed in order to not only help facilitate these manufacturing processes, but for the transfer technology among the manufacturers, and the actual design of the large-scale manufacturing facilities that would be used commercialization as well. Such a task makes it more of a challenge for startups to successfully secure the capital necessary to undergo the process on their own.

The Astellas-YASKAWA relationship dates back to 2017—Astellas has been aiming to expand upon its drug discovery and manufacturing technology research—specifically pertaining to cell therapy—by unveiling a humanoid robot named Maholo that was created by the Robotic Biology Institute, which happens to be a YASKAWA subsidiary.

Per the memorandum’s conditions, the companies will begin discussions in creating a platform with the capabilities to successfully connect early-stage research through to commercialization; in other words, Maholo could be utilized for the manufacturing of products and as a way to shorten the cell therapy research and development period.

There is also the possibility of offering the use of the platform to academia and startups. Astellas would provide its cell manufacturing tech, along with clinical development and cell therapy regulatory insights, while YASKAWA would provide and create its robotics and factory automation technologies.

Pharmaceutical Commerce had also recently reported that Xyphos Biosciences, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Astellas Pharma, and Poseida Therapeutics, Inc, a clinical-stage biopharmaceutical company, had inked a research collaboration and license agreement that entails the development of novel convertibleCAR (convertible chimeric antigen receptor) programs.2 This will involve a combination of both parties’ cell therapy platforms.

“We are excited to expand our relationship with Astellas, where we share a vision that cutting edge, off the shelf cell therapies can address significant unmet needs of patients with solid tumor malignancies,” commented Kristin Yarema, PhD, president and CEO of Poseida. “Today’s agreement further reinforces the economic value of Poseida’s highly differentiated non-viral technologies and enables development in areas beyond our core pipeline focus. It also highlights Poseida’s role as the partner of choice in allogeneic CAR-T.”

Astellas was also excited for the new collaboration, especially for the amount of growth potential involved.

“At Astellas, we have a strong commitment to developing novel treatments for patients with cancer and have positioned immuno-oncology as a primary focus of our R&D strategy. By leveraging our extensive expertise, experience in cancer biology, and unique technologies, we are focused on reinvigorating the immune system’s ability to discover, disarm, and destroy cancers in more patients,” said Adam Pearson, chief strategy officer, Astellas. “By combining the ACCELTM platform with Poseida’s elegant and cutting-edge genetic editing platforms, we believe the collaboration will bring synergies between the two companies’ breakthrough research and will ultimately lead to expansion of Astellas’ portfolio and to delivery of innovative CAR-T cell therapies to cancer patients.”

References

1. Astellas Announces a Collaboration with YASKAWA to Create an Innovative Cell Therapy Ecosystem through the Integration of Pharmaceutical and Robotics Technologies. Astellas Pharma. May 21, 2024. Accessed May 21, 2024. https://www.astellas.com/en/news/29201

2. Saraceno N. Astellas, Poseida Therapeutics Ink Allogeneic Cell Therapy Agreement. May 3, 2024. Accessed May 21, 2024. https://www.pharmaceuticalcommerce.com/view/astellas-poseida-therapeutics-ink-allogeneic-cell-therapy-agreement

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